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Adagio for Strings and Organ in G Minor


Tomaso Albinoni (1671–1750)

Remo Giazotto (1910–1998)




Tomaso Albinoni (1671–1750) was a remarkably independent and productive composer in late-baroque Italy, the composer of at least fifty operas (possibly up to eighty, as many have been lost), almost fifty solo cantatas, a hundred sonatas, almost sixty concerti, and eight sinfonias. The son of a merchant, he was able to pursue a life as a composer and musician with little support from patrons. His music was quite popular in his own time, with his instrumental music often compared with that of Corelli and Vivaldi, and his Opus 1 (a trio sonata) used as the basis of several keyboard fugues by none other than J.S. Bach. He had a particular preference for the violin and oboe as solo instruments, and often wrote for these instruments as he would for the human voice.

Curiously enough, the work for which Albinoni is best known in the twenty-first century—and which we will be hearing in this concert—is not actually his own. The Adagio in G Minor is actually a twentieth-century invention by the musicologist and critic Remo Giazotto, who was well known for his biographical work on Genoa, Vivaldi, and Albinoni. Having written on the life of Albinoni in 1945, he then composed the Adagio in 1958 as an elaboration on a theme supposedly taken from one of Albinoni’s sonatas. Unfortunately, the provenance of the original theme has been difficult to prove, as a sonata by Albinoni containing this material no longer exists; Giazotto’s personal records provide no help. 

Today, the piece is generally considered a neo-baroque composition by Giazotto himself, written in the style of Albinoni and possibly based on a melody by him. Still, this gorgeous work is enormously popular and can be heard regularly not only on the symphonic stage, but also in films like Rollerball (1975), Flashdance (1983), and Manchester by the Sea (2016), as well as the more recent FX television series The Assassination of Gianni Versace (2018).  

John Williams changed the film world with his late 1970s scores for Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). Drawing from the late-Romantic and early-twentieth-century idioms of composers like Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Holst, and Korngold, he brought lush, orchestral scoring back into vogue in an industry that had briefly turned to jazz, popular, and compiled scores.

Program notes by:
Dr. Jessica Getman

Assistant Professor of Musicology/Ethnomusicology
California State University, San Bernardino

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